Tag Archives: degustation

Luxury Istria, 2010

Buzet in the region of Istria, is not a place that springs to mind when you think of a honeymoon destination. For a few weeks of the year during truffle hunting season, it’s the place to go for the finding of both the black and white varieties of the fungus, but for the remainder of the year it appears to be largely deserted.

My husband and I visited the local tourist office where they were amazed that we had not hired a car, as buses were not frequent in the area. They gave us the number of a local man who could give us a lift if it was on the way to where he was heading for a small fee and a plan to find some sulphur springs that were not in the guide book while we were in the region.

The main reason we had come to Buzet was for a truffle degustation at Stara Ostarija. So we booked for dinner, hoping that our journey into the middle of nowhere was not for nothing. We returned to the restaurant at twilight for our six course slow meal and were the only ones in the restaurant. Now this was more like it, I thought to myself.

First course was soft cheese with white truffles on bread. Kind of like cream cheese with a nutty twist. The second course was hard cheese with black truffles, prosciutto and olives. Not unlike a mezze plate and very tasty.

With both black and white truffles, the signature dish was the third course of soup and it was most definitely the best course. Course number four was ribbons of flat fettuccine pasta with lashings of truffle shavings. I had had this dish once before in Rome, but not with quite as many truffles. I guess they don’t exactly have a shortage of them in Buzet.

By course five, meat with larger truffle shavings, I was beginning to get a bit truffled out. So by the time the desert course of cake with truffles arrived, I really could not stomach more than one bite. So that’s what truffles taste like, I thought, as we rolled ourselves down the hill and back to the hotel.

By the next day, we had forgotten our gluttony and headed to the Zigante Tartufi truffle shop to stock up on various truffle pastes and oils to take home.

We called our local man with a spa who drove us to Istarske Toplice mineral spa. We planned to spend the day here, as there was only one bus back into town that afternoon. The outdoor sulphur pool was closed, so we headed to the indoor pool, only to discover that no more than a thirty-minute soak is recommended for the sulphur pools.

After our short dip, we had lunch as the one hotel on site and wandered around the grounds. There was a mini golf course that was not in operation and some truffle hunting dogs in cages. I would have loved to have been here in truffle hunting season so that we could get a glimpse of these clever dogs in action. As is always the way, our procrastination almost caused us to miss our bus back to town and we had to run to catch it on the main road.

Of course, Buzet will always have a special place in my heart because it was my honeymoon. The town was beautiful and the truffle degustation was also the most romantic meal that we had on our trip that sparked a lust for degustation dining that continued when we returned home to Sydney.

Related posts: Pag and Buzet, 2010, Split and Zadar, 2010, Dubrovnik, 2010, Destination Thailand, 2010

Degustation Delights

In 2011, my husband and I went through a spell of being addicted to degustation menu’s at Sydney’s top restaurants, always with matched wines of course. It became a bit of a problem when after a year of visiting a different restaurant each month, we became blasé, non-appreciative and had to cut ourselves off. Now we try to only go for special occasions.

My favourite restaurant that sticks in my memory is Oscillate Wildly in Newtown. We went on the recommendation of a friend and were not disappointed. The menu is seasonal, so I can’t recount any of the dishes here, but the place was what made the degustation. The restaurant was small with only a few tables available which lent to the neighbourhood feel. I even remember the couple who arrived late as the babysitter was late, the lesbian couple and the younger couple who left after a couple of courses- I don’t think they quite knew what they were getting into!

My husband’s favourite is Est in the city which we have now been to a few times. The comfortable surroundings and little touches, such as the champagne cart coming around upon arrival, make you feel special. The menu features Australian food with French precision such as the cocoa crusted venison saddle with beetroot, caramelised witlof, pickled blueberries and red leaves.

At the time, Marquee in Surry Hills was the top degustation restaurant. So we went to try the French food with an Australian twist. They serve Kangaroo and Redgate Farm Quail with matched wines from Australia to Spain. I always enjoy tasting the matched wines from different countries and imagining the countryside that the wine came from, or having an Australian wine from a winery that we have been to and remembering it.

Our very first degustation was at Coast in Darling Harbour, so of course we were blown away and returned on numerous occasions for special occasions with friends. It featured lovely décor, a mostly seafood menu including spaghetti with vongole, white wine, chilli and pangrattato, and is now closed.

We went to a French restaurant called Apres a couple of times, which we enjoyed for similar reasons to Oscillate Wildly. It was a neighbourhood restaurant in Potts Point with a nice atmosphere and friendly staff which my husband liked to impress with his French. It had great croquettes, lovely duck and then it closed.

Assiette, another French restaurant in the area that we went to featured dishes such as the white asparagus barigoule with spanner crab, golden beetroot and saffron matched with a 2007 Catrala Savignon Blanc from the Casablanca Valley in Chile. It is now closed.

Becasse in the city, featured delights such as shaved organic Wagyu beef with white asparagus, mushroom and chilled consommé matched with 2009 Spinifex “Luxe”, Barossa Valley, before it closed.

When we went to Bilson’s, the French restaurant that was at the Raddison Blu in the city, my husband found a stone in mushroom starter. Perhaps that’s why it is now also closed.

Maybe the fact that most of the restaurants that we went to degustation’s at in 2011 are now closed is reflective of the fact that fine dining restaurants are struggling to survive in Sydney? Perhaps people are just sick of French food? Or maybe the younger generation don’t want long degustation’s and tasting menu’s are the way forward?

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